Choosing a Hand-Cranked Grain Mill
I just spent two hours researching and choosing a hand-cranked grain mill. In the end I went with the Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain / Flour Mill by Wondermill, pictured here.
But before making my decision I agonized over several models, including a bunch of cast-iron ones that looked heavy-duty but were “coated” with aluminum; some cheap aluminum models that were easy on the pocket book; the ever-popular “Our Best Grain Mill” by Lehman’s and the outrageously expensive, but top-of-the-line Country Living Mill.
I was looking at several factors when making my decision on which hand-powered grain mill to buy. Some of the more important ones were:
- How much does it cost?
- What is the grinding mechanism made from?
- Is it easy to turn the handle (proper leverage)?
- How does it attach to the table?
- How big is the hopper?
- Does it grind flour and meal equally well?
- What is the casing made out of?
I was looking for something inexpensive, but would pay more for a solid grain mill that met all the other requirements than a cheap one made from inferior materials. Cast iron grain mills were inexpensive, but I noticed they were all coated with one thing or another, which would undoubtedly end up in your food. Not only that, but reviews from users told stories of rust and premature wear. I guess you get what you pay for.
I wanted something with either a steel or stone grinding mechanism. The one I ended up buying had both, as one is better for flour and the other is better for things like cornmeal or cream of wheat consistency.
The best grain mill for me would be hand-cranked but would provide proper leverage so as to be easier to turn than other mills. All three of the finalists met this criteria, but many of the cheaper models didn’t – at least according to customer reviews on sites like Amazon.
We want to attach this grain mill to our table, but would like the option of either permanent attachment (screws) or temporary (clamps). Most were either one or the other. The Wonder Jr. is a clamp-on but, unlike the Lehman’s mill, it has two clamps instead of one. If you’ve ever tried to saw a board that was only clamped down with one clamp you’ll know the difference there. Also, the Lehman’s “Best Mill” has cast iron burrs and a plastic hopper, while the Wonder Junior Delux has stainless steel and stone burrs and a metal hopper. The Lehman’s “Our Best Grain Mill” was about $40 cheaper though, and is a pretty good grain mill from what I hear.
The Country Living Grain Mill (eg The BMW of hand-cranked grain mills) is twice the price of the Wonder Junior, which is pretty much why I didn’t buy it. I’m not sure there is anything more to say than – $410. No, that’s not a typo.
A few tips for choosing a hand-cranked grain mill:
Stay away from the cast-iron models that you see for $20-$50 and some change. You’ll get what you pay for, which is a mill that really only grinds corn well; can’t do flour (even if they say it can), and will end up depositing metal fragments in your grain.
Get the dimensions of the hopper and draw it out on a piece of paper so you can get a feel for the actual size. You don’t want to be refilling the hopper every ten cranks.
Make sure you get something versatile that can grind cornmeal as well as it can grind flour and vice versa. Usually this will mean a model that allows you to switch between metal and stone burrs, but a good stainless steel burr will probably deliver a passable product either way.
There you have it. My suggestion is to buy the Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain / Flour Mill by Wondermill for about $210 – $220. It isn’t the cheapest and isn’t the most expensive, but should be all you’ll need for as little as you can get it.
PS: You might also be interested in our post about making your own vegetable oil.
See the video below for a demonstration:
Category: Sustainable Living